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05-11-06, 12:10 PM #1
Marine sentenced to life imprisonment for killing mistress
One of the more unusual court cases in Marine Corps history wrapped up this week at Camp Pendleton.
Gunnery Sgt. Archie L. O'Neil Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole Monday for killing a woman hours before he deployed to the Middle East.
Jury problems and O'Neil's alleged plot to kill the judge overseeing his court-martial had delayed the sentencing for nearly a year.
On Feb. 29, 2004, O'Neil met Kimberly D. O'Neal at a park on the base for an extramarital tryst before his deployment.
Defense attorneys didn't contest that O'Neil shot his mistress that day. They instead argued that he suffered from a personality disorder, traumatic echoes of an abusive childhood and post-traumatic stress disorder so severe that he had to carry a gun to feel safe.
In June, a military jury convicted O'Neil on charges of premeditated murder, adultery, carrying a concealed weapon and failing to obey an order. Jurors couldn't decide whether O'Neil should serve life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
The deadlock resulted in an extremely rare hung jury during the sentencing phase.
The case took another turn when naval investigators said they had uncovered a plot by O'Neil to have a fellow Marine kill the judge overseeing his trial. O'Neil allegedly offered $200,000 to Lance Cpl. James T. Jenkins for the deed, according to an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and several witnesses cited in court documents.
O'Neil also wanted Jenkins, whom he met in the brig, to kidnap the daughter of an NCIS agent, the documents showed.
Jenkins tipped off law enforcement authorities about the plot last summer, then committed suicide Sept. 28. No charges were filed in the plot involving the judge or the agent's daughter.
For months after the hung jury, Camp Pendleton's legal office debated how to redo the sentencing deliberations. Last week, a new military jury listened to tapes of the original trial. A few witnesses also testified during the process.
There was no deadlock this time. The new jurors deliberated for less than two hours before rendering their verdict.
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